Papyrus Must Die Updated!

Mm, sorry. All out of Zen. It’s almost like some thoughtless, contrived stereotype from the wrong world ethnicity is destroying all the harmony in your composition. Let us meditate.

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Categories: roaming updates  

Papyrus Must Die Updated!

We’re also cutting back on the use of modern, genetically-modified fonts, which are known to generate 3 times the CO2 emissions of their tacky, preinstalled bretheren.

Sent in by Nick.

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Categories: roaming updates  

Papyrus Must Die Updated!

This is the coup-de-grace of awful, each next one is uglier and more soul-hollowingly assinine than the previous. Hell is in Missouri, I have seen it.

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Categories: roaming updates  

A Better Ride For The Town

So, some of you may remember last year I had an experiment in commuting by bike instead of car. I live, of course, in Indianapolis, which isn’t exactly the most bike friendly city in the world, but where most of my car usage was weighing in at around 2-12 miles in any direction. I’d biked to college for the first three years (the fourth year saw me hauling too many portfolio pieces and canvases for the bike to be practical at all), and I found myself thinking about taking that back up. With the advice of my manager, a bike commuter himself, I looked into a more modern, and task-appropriate, hybrid bike instead of the mountain bikes I’d grown up with, and I set to it. I got what was for me the most expensive bike I’d ever bought, but which I learned along the way was actually a rolling conglomeration of low-end parts and cut-rate bearings that were formed together in the shape of a bike. But, this was a big commitment, and a proper bike-as-a-vehicle investment would only make sense if I stuck with things, so, I decided to start with something low-end to see if I would keep at it before making such a large investment in a whim.

The Not-Schwinn Trailway, Affectionately Dubbed "Your Mom"

What I learned is, in fair weather I loved it. It only took about ten more minutes for me to bike to the office instead of drive, thanks to the nature of traffic on the way in. Local errands were sometimes a bit slower, but came with the benefit of being able to skip the treadmill at the gym. And I decided that this year I’d put the deniro into a proper bike-as-a-vehicle ride. And some rain and snow gear, so that when I woke up and it was wet and cold I wouldn’t just throw in the towel and pick up the car keys. I was going to take this seriously, darn it.

And so, in the next few weeks I’m going to finish putting together my new bike v1.0, Bikesworth “Townie” Townsington. Or, as his friends call him, “The Town.”

I say version 1 because down the road I’m going to swap out some stuff based on experience on the bike, and a desperate need to save some money back up after dropping the scratch for the bike itself.

So. The bike. I knew I wanted a 700c hybrid commuter. I’m still not a fan of those hipster fixies that are scooting around everywhere. It’s mostly an aesthetic thing. They’re just not my style. And mountain bikes just flat out suck for commuting. My mountain bike in college was a labor a chore. Even my cheap-o not-Schwinn 700c made getting out on the road so much easier and enjoyable. So a 700c hybrid (half road, half mountain) was my meal ticket. I knew that if I could find steel that’d be nice, because it absorbs bumps better, but that’s a pretty niche market reserved mostly for fixies, so it wasn’t a high priority. Racks and fenders were. I’d added them to the cheapie, and they worked OK, but gave it a bit of Franken-bike aesthetic. I wanted something a bit more “designed,” and to not have to add the cost of those items to my odds-and-ends shopping list. I also considered disc brakes a plus, but not a deal-breaker, and waffled a bit on internal gear hubs, but settled on the versatility and cost-savings of a traditional cassette instead.

In the end, I ordered a Felt Verza City 2. It was well-specced: good, solid mid-end components with no fluff that I wasn’t going to need for commuting. It was beautiful, with a very European flare missing from most American hybrids. And, it was at the high end of my budget, but not unreasonable. For something I was going to try and use as my primary vehicle and work-horse, it was the right mix of everything.

As with all things, I strive to strike a balance between function and appearance. Despite being the sort of dude who asked people to get naked and wear a giant plaster chicken skull mask, I do like a bit of elegance to my stuff. So long as it doesn’t impede functionality, anyway. If it’s elegant exactly because it’s functional, so much the better. So, I set out to update all the essentials (which I had also stuck to cheap on): front light, rear blinky, bottle cage, saddle bag, bell, and panniers. OK, so, the bell isn’t quite an essential, but it’s technically in Indiana law any bike on the road has to have one, so, in the spirit of this being a vehicle and not a toy, a bell it was.  And I lucked out when Megan found men apprently-rare Dimension coffee cup bell without the tacky “COFFEE” screen-printed on it. A Niterider Minewt 350 cordless (on amazing sale at my local shop at the time) won out as the affordable choice for biking on unlit city streets (although if I ever move the country the 600 might see some of my love), and Planet Bike’s super-shiny clear half-watt blinky was the pick for the rear illumination. Top pick for the bottle cage was Velo-Orange’s elegant Moderniste, but since stock on it is harder to find than a Republican who doesn’t hate women, I settled for the very-knockoff Delta Inox one. I needed a new saddle-mounted bag to hold the emergency kit (tools, spare tire, tire levers, gauge), and for the time being I’ll have to settle for the rather-affordable retro-styled Electra Cylinder. My old cheap Schwinn frame pump isn’t the fanciest ever, put it shoves air if I get a flat, so it got to move on to the new ride, and for the time being my giganormous Mwave Day Tripper panniers get to move over as well.

And, while Indianapolis is no New York City (or San Fran, or Portland, or even Ball State University’s campus), I do believe in practicing good security methods with my stuff, so, I’ve invested in some new locks and tools for the first time since I was in high school. Not trusting cables, and finding u-locks too limited in flexibility, I’ve always rather been a chain guy. To that end, Kryptonite’s New York Noose is the right compromise between size and weight and flexibility, and is also reputedly one of the hardest lock solutions to crack on the market. In an easy-theft city like Indy, that’ll be more than adequate. Combined with a beater u-lock and replacing all my quick releases with OnGuard’s locking spindle system to prevent disappearing seats and wheels, and this ought to be a good start for there being a way home for me left at the end of the day.

The Future

So, the future. It’s only version 1.0, right? Right. I’ve got plans to make this the sweetest little townie bike in this damn city. Depending on how I find the ride with the current flat bars, I’ll either just add some Origin8 drop-ends and bar-ends near the clamp for extra hand-holds, or maybe replace the whole bar with a Soma Sparrow for a more touring-style bar that’ll let me keep my MTB shifters and brake levers.

The saddle bag I want to be an actual leather one, of the type that the Electra is imitating. Call me old-fashioned. Zimbale makes a really nice looking one with some size to it, so, that’s on the list. And, while the Mwave panniers get the job done, they take up a lot of space when they aren’t in use, and they’re not often just left on the bike as a result. The obvious solution is a good pair of waxed canvas ones that I can roll up, and Laplander makes just such a thing that also comes with a cinch-string nylon lining, unlike the Brooks. The problem is, being hand-made by a small family business, they don’t run cheap. But they oughtta last forever, for sure.

And, what else? A Brooks saddle? Maybe. A pair of amber spoke lights from ThinkGeek? Almost certainly. And from there… we’ll see. Like anything, my desires and projections might change with use and need. But, either way, it oughtta be one hella fun ride on The Town.

Categories: biographical Tags: ,  

Papyrus Must Die Updated!

To be fair, a good chunk of the Bible took place in Egypt. But still, I think the almighty should shell out a bit more on his image. No wonder my generation is losing faith.

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Categories: roaming updates  

Red Hong Makes Me Look Like A Rank Amateur

I had a professor once who insisted that drawing was a skill, not a talent. With the right instruction and enough practice, he could teach anyone in the world to draw, he said. And by and large, I believe him. But every now and then, you look at the ease and creativity someone puts into rendering an image onto paper, and you have to acknowledge there is some seriously impressive talent at work. Such is the case with Red Hong, who does her large-scale drawings without any traditional utensils. Instead, she uses things like paint and basketballs, or coffee rings. Seriously. If you haven’t checked out her work, you should do that now.

Image from Core77's Post

Papyrus Must Die Updated!

I’d been slacking on this lately because, really, if you’ve seen one awful Aldi’s package, you’ve seen them all. But, this is just head-smackingly dumb. You’re in Dick Blick’s newsblast, largest online hawker of fine materiel for people in the arts… show some class, people. Yeesh.

Oh, right, this is a /funny/ Tumblr. Ahem:

No, I think I get where they’re going with this. They’re youth, right? Young, idealistic, world is their bivalve sorts. What could you possibly teach them that’s more important than the simple fact that lots of decisions in life will be bad, and to expect shitty quality as de regueur? It’s actually a maddeningly brilliant example of that, though I fear it’s giving away all the goods up front…

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Categories: roaming updates  

Making ZmZ v5: The Technical (Part 1)

Last time, I talked about the design theories that went into my new site: Metro, minimalism, reductionism, galleries, etc. This time, then, I want to talk about the tech it took to make those design sketches a reality.

Getting Started

First and foremost, before I was finished even drafting the design layouts, I had been convinced to move the site off of a static grid and onto a responsive grid. Why? Traditionally, websites have been designed for a known horizontal width. Usually the smallest one commonly used on the market (ever seen a size designed for “1024 or greater”? yeah, that.) But with a responsive grid, everything is based on percentages, not pixels. So, instead of a column being 62px wide, it might be 7.82% of the screen width instead. The advantages are obvious: content always fills the view while maintaining the same proportions. Those annoying “sidebars” of space blocking out most websites? Gone. The visual fills your entire view.

Knowing I wanted a responsive grid, I did some poking around. And I very quickly settled on one by Tyler Tate / TwigK (@tylertate) called “” Why? Because all of the grid work is done behind the scenes in the CSS, not by adding fake grid alignment classes to elements, which remove the flexibility of the grid and interrupt the dream of a semantic web (you know the one, where HTML markup is actually just markup and not styling.)

To use, I needed to use another totally cool new technology: LESS. LESS is the work of Alexis Sellier (aka Cloudhead) (@cloudhead) that uses a javascript parser and a compiler to make CSS more like a proper language, with such things as mix-in, variables, math, and semantic nesting. It’s basically amazing, and if you code websites and haven’t brushed up on it yet, you should skip the rest of this article and go do that and you’ll already be ahead.

Letting Go Of The Pixel

The first thing I had to learn was that the pixel was dead to me. In a fluid world, there’s no place for calculating size by pixels. Block level elements were set to percents (and every image is set to 100% width within a containing block-level element). Type is set by em. Everything is relative and in an ideal world that’d be great.


In a fluid world, you can always know the width of an element. You live and die by the width. When aligning things in a grid, however, you sometimes need to know the height of things. Like my logo (to set the menu height). Or the height of a single square element so that input heights can be made to match. This is where things get… messier.

My first idea was, in all regards, a reasonable one: images have implied dimensions. Once the DOM calculates the width for one, it’ll also know the height, and with some assistance from jQuery I can just use that.

var rssHeight = $("img#rss").height();

Those of you smarter than me probably already see the problem here: you have to wait for (often large) images to finish loading. The end result? The website kinda loads then “snaps” to the right aspects. Not exactly elegant.

My second idea was a better one. Pick an element with a ratio I could know (like my logo, or the RSS icon or anything really because I made the bloody graphics), then, calculate its height based off that ratio and something the browser was going to know right away anyway: the browser width. This way, we don’t wait for the image to load to grab it’s height. As soon as the DOM is ready we tell it in advance what height it’s going to figure out it’ll be eventually anyway. Way, way faster.

var body = $("body");
var bodWidth = body.width();
// the content is only 78% of the page width to keep it from raping eyeballs
var adjustedWidth = bodWidth*.78;

var squareHeight = adjustedWidth*0.0491;

Thinking Big. And Bigger

I’m pretty young, really. When I started designing for the web. 800×600 was already the dominant web resolution, with 640×480 the trailing legacy support size. But even so, if I were to go back in time and tell that me that someday in the not-so-distant future he’d find out that the largest standard resolution he’d need to support one day would be 2560 pixels wide (the approximate width of a 4 megapixel image), he’d laugh me out of his web dev class. 2560? Shit, the bandwidth alone would be impractical, and even then, what would you show it on?

Yet, here we are, and supporting 2560px is a real limitation to making a genuinely responsive site (you know, because downsizing looks OK to great, but upsizing never ever ever looks good ever). Yowzer.

In design, “web-size” refers to a low-resolution image that’s no good for printing, but thanks to the web’s approximate 72ppi resolution (actually varies a lot these days by display), and low total resolution, these images look just fine on the screen.

Yeah. That’s not the case when you’re looking at monitors that have more pixels than the average digital camera of 2004. “Web-size” doesn’t cut it anymore. I had to think it out. Every header image must be at least 2560 pixels wide. The homepage uses a 1:2.45 size ratio. The other pages all use a 1:4.6 ratio. But the width is always the same. 2560. No more casually scraping images off the web for blog posts, that’s for sure. Every image I upload needs to be planned, and it needs to be high-quality. And, because bandwidth is still an issue, I always have to worry much more about optimization than I did when graphics could be 500px or less. I promise you, your average mobile connection will throw an absolute hissy over a 2.1mb png file. As will your average user. Among other things, it means that highly compressed JPGs are currently the only way to go. Don’t believe me? Here’re some export weights from Illustrator’s save for web for a 4112x1429px image (the one used earlier in this blog, before I resized it):

  • PNG-24: 3.26mb
  • PNG-8 (256 perceptual): 1.33mb
  • PNG-8 (64 perceptual): 1.07mb
  • JPG (80, Optimized): 1.52mb
  • JPG (40, Optimized): 696.5kb

See? Compressed JPG, clearly the winner. The gallery images suffer the compression hammer a bit less, because, well, it’s a portfolio site after all. But the point stands: a true fluid responsive site really makes you think about your images. A lot.

Whew. That’s a lot, and we’re just scratching the surface. Next time we’ll take a look at waypoints, sticky elements, and what’s in a gallery. After that, WordPress hacking for fun and flexibility. See ya then.

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